Rockland County's eleven high school athletic directors are looking into a possible split from Section 1.
They are currently gathering information regarding a possible move to Section 9, but Tappan Zee Athletic Director Liam Frawley stressed that the discussions are only preliminary and the switch will not be an option if the schools are not able to stay together.
The schools are all close enough in size that they play in the same leagues in most sports.
"If we were to make this move, we want to make sure we are able to stay intact and continue the county games," Frawley said. "This is all preliminary. We are fact-finding right now."
The deadline for the Rockland County schools to apply for Section 9 membership for the 2014-15 school year is Nov. 30. Frawley said starting the research now was important so there is plenty of time to properly investigate the issue. If a move is made, it won't be done quickly or lightly.
Rockland County's high schools have competed in Section 1 since moving from Section 9 in 1983. Frawley said in addition to meeting amongst themselves, the athletic directors will be continue to have discussions with Section 9 and Section 1.
"If we made the move, we don't want to come back two years later with our tails between our legs," Frawley said. "This is for the long term. (These schools) were in Section 9 for a long time for a reason. Maybe it's time to take a closer look at where we stand 30 years later."
The upcoming Tappan Zee Bridge project and the travel challenges it could present are one reason for the discussion to happen now.
"The bridge is part of it," Frawley said. "Scheduling is part of it. We're seeing if we're a better fit in Section 9 with (mostly) Orange (County) than in Section 1 with Westchester."
One concern is if Section 1 were to re-align again and break up the Rockland County schools in more sports. They already face football schedules that are not based on geography. Pearl River, for example, played only one game against a Rockland County opponent in football this past fall.
The ongoing challenge is finding non-league games with most of Section 1's 80 schools located in Westchester county. Those schools are more likely to schedule games close by, where they don't have to cross the Tappan Zee Bridge.
"Sometimes it is a problem," Frawley said. "Some people look at the Hudson River like it is the Grand Canyon. They are hesitant to travel here."
Rockland County schools do play games against opponents in New Jersey, but those don't count toward playoff seeding, so they can make up only a small part of the schedule.
"I'm not knocking my colleagues on the other side of the bridge," Frawley said. "Why travel 30 miles to us when they can go 10 to play somebody else?"
Section 9 includes Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties as well as parts of Dutchess County, one reason keeping the Rockland schools together for league play. Frawley said one of the matters the Rockland County ADs are looking into is if how the travel costs are likely to stack up if they made the switch.
"We want to be fiscally responsible to our districts," Frawley said. "I think it would be a wash with transportation and league fees. That's one of a number of factors we all need to take into account."
There had been informal discussions of the topic before, but Frawley decided it was time to find out what really works best.
"After the holidays, I called the guys and (Clarkstown North AD) Tess (Brogan) and said, how do you guys feel about us asking the questions and finding out rather than speculating. Let's find out how Section 9 does their business. After getting the OK from the other ADs in the county, I contacted Section 9. We had phone discussions and a meeting. We got a great deal of information. We are still seeing what that information will spur."